“If you are not a school of the future, you won’t be a school in the future.”

In NAIS President Pat Bassett’s presentation Monday, he called upon educators to frame their inquiry about becoming Schools of the Future around four Essential Questions:

  1. What should we teach?
  2. How should we teach?
  3. How should we assess?
  4. How do we embed the vision?

He then elaborated upon each; perhaps it was due to time running out, but his discussion of the fourth was most abstract and least pertinent, I thought.   But I offer some summary and thoughts about the first three:

What should we teach?

Pat urged schools emphasize the The Five C’s: Creativity, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Communication, and Character.  He argued that thought some schools may have done good work with articulating the language arts or science curriculum, K-12, via mapping, now it is incumbent upon us to map these skill and value curricular strands: “What is your PS through 12th grade leadership curriculum?”

But once schools have embraced the responsibility to ensure students can do, rather than just know, it is time to then grapple again with what is is students must know: “Is there a body of knowledge that is mandatory and universal for our students?”

This is the right place to start, and I appreciate Pat’s focus on this most essential of questions as the foundation for creating schools of the future.  (more…)

For me, teaching is joyful when you feel that you are both leading and participating in a collaborative problem-solving team tackling real-world problems.  This I tweeted recently in response to a twitter inquiry: what brings you joy in teaching.

I was taken by the parallels of my view and Wesch’s  when viewing this video and hearing his argument that the best way we can teach students “knowledge-ability” is to ask them to tackle real-world, challenging problems, problems we don’t know the answer to, and then lead and guide them as a collaborative team in addressing those problems, while facilitating their use of the best available tools to address these problems.

Knowledgeable is what we call people who have learned a lot of material, a lot of content; I don’t think Michael is saying that we no longer want knowledgeable students.  He is saying that they need to be more than that, they need to be knowledge-able: they need to be able to construct their own knowledge, to make their own meaning, and to have the tools and skills to effectively and compellingly critically think, communicate, create, and collaborate on-line.     He is also saying that this is no longer a TV watching generation: it is one which thrills to two-way participatory environments and is dulled senseless by one-way communication channels.    The knowledge they need to acquire they need to learn by working with content, not absorbing it.

In looking back over the past five years to identify the key handful of “moments” when I became energized and inspired to embrace and advocate a new vision of learning in our new fast-changing era, I know that watching Michael Wesch’s students’ famous, brilliant, and chill-inducing video, A View of Students Today, was one of the main ones.  Watch and see if you don’t shiver, and see if your own worldview of learning does not change.   (more…)

We know that content memorization must no longer the goal of our learning programs; what our goal must be is that students can make the most sense of the voluminous and fast-accelerating quantity of information which will forever be at their fingertips, and about which they must be able to think critically, to select, to evaluate, to apply, and to amend as they tackle challenging problems.

So why shouldn’t our school-tests evaluate our students ability to do exactly this?  Why not structure tests appropriately, and then invite and welcome (and require) our students to use their computers on their tests? Isn’t this real world, and real life, preparation?

Radical maybe, but it is happening.   In Denmark, for instance.

At five to nine, the room falls silent. CD-roms and exam papers are handed out together. This is the Danish language exam. One of the teachers stands in front of the class and explains the rules. She tells the candidates they can use the internet to answer any of the four questions. They can access any site they like, even Facebook, but they cannot message each other or email anyone outside the classroom.

The teachers also think the nature of the questions make it harder to cheat in exams. Students are no longer required to regurgitate facts and figures. Instead the emphasis is on their ability to sift through and analyse information. (more…)

Thinking Forward, our new St. Gregory admissions/marketing brochure-viewbook has been recently published, and I am very pleased to share it here. I think it is an attractive and important articulation of our school’s 21st century educational program and philosophy.

Despite my best efforts, I failed to embed the page-turning scrolling version inside my blog here, but I do encourage visitors here to view and read it by clicking here.